The landscape of the music industry is rapidly changing, and traditional ways of listening to music are constantly replaced by new ones. The scheme that supposes purchasing albums on CD became completely outdated. At the same time, digital distribution is now also going through hard times. Albums sales are falling, and this fact is not a silent alarm but rather a clear statement that musical industry should seek for the alternatives. At the same time, more and more people prefer to listen to music with the help of streaming services. This phenomenon supposes constant provision of media to the customer for an extremely small subscription payment. However, streaming of music as every new concept has a variety of benefits and shortcomings.
Streaming services today are gaining popularity because of convenient payment model and effective system of recommendation based on customer’s plays history, musical preferences and even data from the social networks. Streaming occupies a significant part of industry despite ongoing criticism from musicians ranging from Thom Yorke to Taylor Swift. Moreover, some of the major musicians simply withdraw their tracks from database sites, accusing them in inaccurate payment of royalties to authors and artists. At the same time, despite its significance for the industry in shifting towards paid subscriptions, there is another important controversy. Streaming services still remain unprofitable.
Talking about streaming, one would mention its benefits for consumers, scandals with pop stars or influence on the industry. However, the benefits of this concept to the unpopular musician are not mentioned at all. At the same time, this theme contains facts that cast doubt on the entire concept of streaming. In his essay titled The Finger’s on the Self-Destruct Button, Anil Prasad insists that such giants of streaming as Apple, Google and Spotify completely ignore the rights of independent musicians and labels. According to his words, this business consists of investors that try to return their own money while musicians receive extremely small sums. In fact, the current activity of streaming services is not far from piracy.
The major part of low popular musicians does not fully understand all aspects of this phenomenon. Streaming companies continuously increase the cost of advertisement and subscription payments while reducing royalties. Moreover, they, in fact, do not allow musicians to evaluate the cost and availability of their own music. At the same time, these companies promote the myth of absolute availability by offering more possibilities to mass distribution but do nothing to promote unpopular musicians. Prasad outlines that such policy forces the musicians to create their audience with the help of social media, Internet resources, and constant live performances. However, these actions do not require the existence of music on streaming services.
Therefore, streaming influences the musicians in two crucial ways. The first one supposes the increase in the touring and concert activity. Sales of tickets and musical merchandise constitute a significant part of musicians’ income. On the other hand, the organization of tours requires a lot of money. David Holmes in Who Killed the Music Industry states the problem of a glut in the touring market that allows concert organizers to establish the amount of money for musicians. The second consequence of streaming is the musicians’ search for alternative ways of income. Anil Prasad claims that musicians and labels will inevitably shift towards the independence, and streaming services will consistently disappear.
Therefore, Independent labels should plan the future by building their own distribution models without major companies. Prasad claims that one of the most perspective examples of such model is Bandcamp. It is a service that allows musicians to sell music in both digital and physical formats. Such option makes free downloading possible and acts as a streaming service. Currently, Bandcamp introduced an update that sets a kind of subscription to all releases of a particular musician. Buying an annual or monthly subscription, the customer pays for access to both already existing and future releases. Such practice is similar to crowd funding or, in other words, financing based on voluntary donations from fans.
Sale of music for advertising purposes in another alternative to the current revenue flows. The concept of stock music is the most perspective source of income besides such obvious examples as television and radio. Stock music websites allow musicians to sell their music and buy it from other authors for a variety of purposes ranging from the design of home video clips to professional advertising on television. The stock music concept uses Royalty Free license that supposes partial transfer of copyright to the client. Shaun Letang convincingly insists that such websites provide a significant passive income and represent additional revenue stream.
The concept of streaming, as well as its alternatives, have numerous shortcomings; thus becoming more and more discussed phenomena. However, Steve Albini sees the popularization and mass availability of music as the primary merits of technological progress in general and digital music distribution in particular. One cannot deny that music became an integral part of modern world. Every day ordinary person hears a lot of music without thinking how essential it is for everyday life. Marshall and Frith see the origin of this phenomenon in Parisian cafes. In fact, music in one form or another accompanies every human activity. To illustrate this statement, one needs to imagine one day of an ordinary person.
After waking up one usually faces the music on morning shows on TV or radio. Secondly, the majority of individuals listen to music on their mobile devices or mp3 players on the way to school, college or work. Thirdly, broadcasting services of schools and colleges play different music during the breaks. Fourthly, if one gets hungry, he or she decides to go to the cafe, bar, restaurant, or supermarket. However, even here one cannot escape from music. Finally, after a hard day of work an ordinary person wants to relax watching movie or TV series that again include music soundtrack. Thus different forms and genres of music present in everyday life.
At the same time, there are numerous places aimed to spread music in combination with positive emotions for the people. Different concert halls, musical theaters, and nightclubs became an essential part of modern life. In order to understand why people go to the concerts, one should remember that music is a form of communication not only between the musicians on stage and the audience but also between different listeners. People come to the concert or to the club to share their emotions with those who understand their interests and values. Thus, music performs an important social function literally connecting people.
One can hardly overestimate the influence of technology on the music industry. After the digital formats had emerged, it became understandable that traditional distribution models were not effective anymore. Currently, the concept of streaming or, in other words, buying music for small subscription payment is the most popular way of development of music industry. However, different experts claim that streaming will have devastating consequences for the bottom line of musicians. Therefore, such service as Bandcamp or selling music through the stock websites help musicians to become less dependent on major labels. At the same time, streaming as well as other digital models of distribution made music an integral part of everyday life. An ordinary person faces music unconsciously in restaurants, bars, schools, supermarkets, and other public places. At the same time, music also plays the role of the connector in concert halls and nightclubs.